“The character came about because a pig is the only thing I can remotely draw,” laughs Mark Brown, author of the three-part children’s story Zen Pig.
“My son Noble and I hung out a lot, and we would draw together,” says Brown. And when Noble developed the language skills to make his preferences known, he would request that his dad draw Zen Pig.
“I made a lot of mistakes,” says Brown. “I want to help my son avoid that. I’m trying to nurture the proper seeds in him.”
That’s why he gave his son the name Noble: he says he was lying in bed, thinking about his future child, when he realized that he didn’t care if his son were an astronaut or a garbage collector—what he really wanted was for his son to be noble. “I cared about his virtues,” says Brown. “I want that to be his crown, what he will always live up to.”
After Noble started asking for Zen Pig, Brown eventually realized he wanted to share the character—and the values it represented—beyond his own family. He ran the idea by some friends who had kids of their own, and they encouraged him and pushed him to finish the book. In May of 2015, the first part of Zen Pig’s story was released.
The slim volume costs $7.95, and it can be purchased at zenpigbook.com or at The Crazy Kukla Boutique on Murfreesboro’s Square. It consists of short, four-line verses written by Brown, alternating with illustrations done by his wife, Amy Lynn Brown. It opens:
On a grassy green knoll
Lived a pleasant little pig
Who always seemed quite whole.
The other animals remark on Zen Pig’s peacefulness and awareness, but Zen Pig denies that he is special and offers to teach the other creatures his philosophy.
Zen Pig’s advice includes caring for others as much as for yourself, choosing words with care for their effect on others, forgiving oneself for mistakes, and enjoying the present moment. The second two volumes, Zen Pig: The Wonder We Are and Zen Pig: All That Is Needed, continue these themes and the adventures of Zen Pig.
Each purchase of a volume of Zen Pig’s story enables the Browns to donate enough clean water to provide for 10 people for one year.
“[Book purchasers] have provided 16,620 people with clean water in seven months,” says Brown. “I thought I’d sell maybe five copies. I’m so humbled and grateful for the people for the people of this area for all of their support.”
This coming May, he’ll start publishing the second volume of Zen Pig.
As for what he hopes for Zen Pig in the future? Says Brown, “He’s more than a children’s character. I’d like him to be a symbol for the mindful lifestyle, to help us nurture the little ones in our life. The sooner we learn to be grateful and aware of our abundance, the better. I’d like to help turn the light on for them a little earlier than it came on for me.”
And as for son? “Noble is three. He’s a much better man than I am already,” says Brown.
For more information on Zen Pig or to order a copy, visit zenpigbook.com.